One would be hard-pressed to name a working jazz musician who has played with a longer list of great artists than Ray Mantilla. Beginning his career in the 1950s, the percussionist has played with such widely diverse personalities as Xavier Cugat, Freddie Hubbard, Gato Barbieri, Cedar Walton, Michael Urbaniak, Kenny Burrell, Shirley Scott and countless others. Together with Max Roach, he was a founding member of the popular percussion ensemble M’Boom. For his new CD, “The Connection,” Mantilla has taken his decades of experience in music and synthesized it into a language which encompasses the best of all genres while never quite leaving his Latin roots and heritage. With a band made up of long-time colleagues, Ray rips through an imaginative program of originals and standards where the Latin beats are tinged with echoes of Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Spain and Ray’s own Nuyorican roots.
After nine CDs over 20 years with her longstanding Tierney Sutton Band, the five-time Grammy-nominated vocalist decided to leave her comfort zone and leap off the cliff by tackling an homage to the revered pop singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. Having come up as a jazz singer with an intimate knowledge of the Great American Songbook, Sutton wasn’t all that familiar with Mitchell’s work prior to hearing “Both Side Now” in 2000. That tour de force recording sparked her interest and sent her on a journey of investigating Mitchell’s earlier masterworks. With “After Blue,” her most daring and revealing project to date, Tierney puts her own unique stamp on familiar Mitchell tunes from the late ‘60s through2000.
Also this week, pianist Fred Hersch, who performed at this summer’s Iowa City Jazz Fest, teams up with guitarist Julian Lage for the duo release “Free Flying”; Southern California saxophonist David Sills gathers his quintet for “Blue’s the New Green,” featuring many of David’s tasteful swinging originals; and guitarist Fred Fried and Core focus in on a program of Burt Bacharach material on “Core Bacharach.”